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New-look Wolfpack look to extend win streak before returning to Toronto

The Toronto Wolfpack look to extend their winning streak to 10 games in all competition Saturday when they take on Halifax RLFC in London before flying to Canada for the first time this season.

The transatlantic rugby league team tops the second-tier Betfred Championship at 9-1-1, a record compiled completely in Europe due to the installation of a new artificial surface at Toronto's Lamport Stadium.

The renovations continue so Toronto's May 5 home opener will be at Fletcher's Fields north of the city. And the Wolfpack's sixth-round Ladbrokes Challenge Cup tie May 12 will take place at Warrington Wolves' home stadium rather than in Toronto. 

The Wolfpack will then play two more games on the road before returning to Lamport for the first of eight straight home contests.

Toronto fans will see a vastly different team.

New faces this season are Australians Jack Buchanan, Jack Butler-Fleming, Darcy Lussick, Reni Maitua, Josh McCrone, Cory Paterson and Chase Stanley, Albanian-born Olsi Krasniqi, Fiji international Ashton Sims and England's Andy Ackers, Adam Higson, Sam Hopkins, Gareth O'Brien and Nick Rawsthorne.

Two more 2018 additions — England's Tom Armstrong and Joe Westerman — have since moved on.

Star forwards Fuifui Moimoi, Ryan Bailey and Dave Taylor were axed for a training camp transgression the club has never detailed.

Former captain Craig Hall, Steve Crossley, Tom Dempsey, Dan Fleming, Rhys Jacks, Shaun Pick and Sean Penkywicz left in the off-season while fullback Quentin Laulu-Togaga'e departed last week.

Canadian Quinn Ngawati and American Ryan Burroughs are on loan to the London Skolars while James Laithwaite is at Bradford and Butler-Fleming at York.

"The one thing that I've been consistent with from Day 1 is having the right people," said coach Paul Rowley. "And that's what we've done. And we've made decisions that have damaged us on the field but ultimately they've strengthened the group time and time again."

For Rowley, the revamped roster is filled with professionals who know their trade, do what's needed off the field, have the right attitude and don't need babysitting.

"I feel like we've spent several weeks, maybe two months, clearing the decks off a turbulent pre-season on and off the field," he said. "And as the season grows, the boys will get fitter through matches, which is not ideal but nevertheless it's given us strength of character and determination to persevere and be resilient. And that's what we've been in most games."

Stanley, O'Brien, Buchanan, Andrew Dixon and Greg Worthington are all dealing with injuries this week.

Rowley has had to work with a small squad with not much backup. But the team continues to win.

Toronto has not lost since a 47-16 defeat Feb. 25 at the hands of the London Broncos. Halifax (7-3-0) has won four straight since losing 38-6 at Toulouse on March 24 and currently stands fifth in the table.

"We'll expect a team that expects to beat us," said Rowley. 

The Wolfpack have already beaten the second- and third-ranked teams in the league, downing Featherstone Rovers 24-16 and Toulouse Olympique 24-22. The lone blemishes on their record are an early-season tie with No. 8 Barrow Raiders and the loss to the fourth-ranked Broncos.


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Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press

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